Monday, August 19, 2013

on Facebook and "friends"

Pooh and Piglet illustration by E.H. Shepard


Hi all, just a quick little post today (please forgive any typos, grammatical errors and general ineloquence -- I have to rush through these things for now you know lol!).

Well, I'd popped into Facebook, and while I was there, I decided to do something I'd been wanting to for awhile -- go through my already small Friends list and Unfriend anyone with whom I hadn't interacted for ages, and whom I knew ultimately didn't give two hoots about me or my family.

As I Unfriended these people, I wondered why I'd even Friended them to begin with; I concluded it had been some sort of vague sentimentality, or a fleeting excitement at touching base again with someone I hadn't seen for decades. But after the initial rush of "how have you beens", communication quickly died and we became largely indifferent to each other, so why keep them on, burdening them with boring updates about myself?

As you might guess, I am not one of those people who have hundreds and thousands of FB "friends". I don't quite understand the people who do, and can only conclude that they need them for work, or else they're immensely entertaining and popular, and simply can't help themselves.

My one girlfriend has some 300 friends, for instance; on asking her if she spoke with all these people regularly, or if she even really knew who they all were, she frankly admitted she didn't (I won't even ask the guy who has 2,346 "friends"). Some of them were people she'd met only once or twice at a meeting or a party and then never saw again; others were friends of friends of friends, people she didn't even know, but who seemed to feel compelled to extend their social ripple as widely, albeit meaninglessly, as possible.

I can't help but wonder how FB affects one's concept of friendship. Many people seem to use their status updates as substitutes for get-togethers, or phone calls; comments and emoticons are used to show interest or concern. There is a sort of superficiality about it all, an implication that all it takes is a quick click of a button to be considered a friend.

Considering all the activity I see people engaged in on FB, I realise I've barely scratched the surface of what the whole thing is about. It was ages before I finally joined the site -- while the rest of the world was already fully immersed in friending, poking and gaming -- and I did so eventually in order to get in touch with an old friend from university.

For me personally, FB is wonderfully useful for things like that, and keeping in touch with those who are overseas. I post the odd photo or comment now and then primarily to keep in touch with them, and that's about the extent of my FB activity. I'm rarely on, but the times I am, I see people posting a million and one things, from political gripes to what they eat every day.

(My personal bugbear were the posts detailing every little thing their kids said or did, so I was thrilled to discover the feature that lets one silence specific people who do that FB equivalent of taking out a whole string of photos from their wallet and shoving it at you. These are the sorts of things your friends would probably never do to you in person -- FB seems to bring out unaccountable things in some people).

Well, for some time I'd wanted to share an article I'd read in an old issue of Real Simple, entitled Feel Better Already. The subhead read: "So maybe you can't change your health overnight. But you can get a head start, with these 21 painless, proven ways to instantly boost your well-being (inside and out)". Well, who doesn't want to know these right!

But before I get into that, my girlfriend happened to send me an article from The Economist. I laughed out loud when I saw the title: Facebook is bad for you -- Get a life!

A recent study "has shown that the more someone uses Facebook, the less satisfied he is with life... Those who used Facebook a lot were more likely to report a decline in satisfaction than those who visited the site infrequently. In contrast, there was a positive association between the amount of direct social contact a volunteer had and how positive he felt. In other words, the more volunteers socialised in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling...".

An earlier study "found that the most common emotion aroused by using Facebook is envy. Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarised their bons mots can leave Facebook's users more than a little green-eyed. Real-life encounters, by contrast, are more WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)" (from The Economist; read the article in its entirety here).

Well, back to the Real Simple article. Obviously I can't copy the whole thing out here, but I'll quickly share with you a few pointers. Hopefully, you'll be able to find a back issue or the article online if you're really interested (following extracts from Real Simple, April 2013).

One, Smile -- especially if you don't feel like it. "When you smile, you trigger a psychological and neurobiological alignment with positive emotions, and that can lead to healthier living. In other words: Fake it till you make it". I agree!

Here's another: Snack on dark chocolate (yay!). "In addition to its other documented health benefits, dark chocolate may help sharpen your mind... Even better, science has found evidence for what you suspected all along: Chocolate may help take the edge of stress". Get to it, people!

Then: Try Nature's chill pills. "Take a bath with Epsom salts... Put 10 drops of lavender oil (also shown to help promote a state of calm) in 2 cups of Epsom salts. Add to warm water and soak in it for 20 minutes". Those of you with bathtubs, let me know how this goes!

Next: Take a hike. Research has found that "being in nature can improve cognitive function. In one study, an hour-long trek in a woody park improved subjects' performances on memory and attention tests by as much as 20%, compared with a walk in an urban environment. Furthermore, some Japanese research has shown that a day spent in the forest can improve immune function and decrease concentrations of adrenaline and cortisol for as long as a week". Tiny remnant rainforest, here I come!

Then: Get some "microexercise". "Studies show that everything from cognition to the lymphatic system improves if we are more consistently active throughout the day... [Researchers] found that those who got short bouts of exercise (between 1 and 10 minutes) through everyday activities experienced the same benefits, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as did those who continuously exercised for 30 minutes". Does getting a cup of tea from the kitchen count?

Next: Pull on socks at bedtime. "Swiss researchers found that people fall asleep faster when their hands and feet are warmer than the ambient temperature of the bedroom". Also if you can get your baby to sleep through the night.

And finally -- Get some perspective on Facebook. Researchers have found that "Facebook can make you feel bad about yourself, even if you're not conscious of it. People in the study who had large friend networks tended to evaluate their lives more negatively... people tend to post disproportionately positive updates... Also, the more friends you have, the more of those impossibly perfect updates you'll probably see". Yay for my tiny handful of real FB friends!

Have a super, feel-good start to the week everyone (and go for a walk with a friend)!

19 comments:

Real College Student of Atlanta said...

I unfriend people every now and then too

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I thnk I need to do a thorough FB friend cleaning...there are people on there that I haven't interacted with in ages. BTW I finally figured out how to bypass Blogger's limit on the maximum number of blogs that one can follow. So I am finally following your blog now :)

Erika said...

I love your tips. Especially the Epsom salt bath with Lavender. Smells relax me and make me feel good in a moment. Thank you. Such a thoughtful post. Hugs, Erika

Rowena @ rolala loves said...

I'm not on Facebook much just because I can't deal with people's "drama" and oversharing. I think I may be due for another cleaning session but the unsubscribe button is wonderful too :) I've actually had people freak out about being unfriended. Thanks for the tidbits from the Real Simple article. I need to try that sock trick the next time I can't sleep.

Rowena @ rolala loves

Sulky Kitten said...

Hi Jan, Hope you and Jake are doing well! I just don't get FB. I've never used it, because it just seems like a huge time suck and full of nonsense and lies and unpleasantness. I can see that for people with family scattered across the globe it might be useful, but really who needs to keep in touch with that many people, that often? I also find it a bit sinister the way people seem to use it simply to spy on other people. Creepy! Love that illustration!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Great post! And I agree with you. I have a small connection of friends, and there are maybe a handful that I should consider removing from my list. I don't spend much time on Facebook. It doesn't really appeal to me. A few people post interesting things, and some share nice photos, but there are others that post about every miniscule event of every single day. Others put up an endless amount of photos of themselves, going so far as photographing their feet or their hands or their legs to show up their shoes or their new jewelry or their new pants, etc! It's plain nonsense. There is a fine line between confidence and egotism. I guess Facebook just isn't for me. I keep my account live to communicate with individuals that are far way.

Elizabeth Brown said...

I have 46 friends on Facebook. 4 family members, 19 classmates from college, and the rest are either church friends or people I have kept in touch with for ages online. I don't believe in "friending" someone if I haven't known them for a while, either online or off. Accepting random friend requests is weird and creepy. I use Facebook as a way to keep up with family and people I see or talk to often, not to offer up my personal information to strangers. That's like walking around town with all of your personal information written on your shirt. You don't know who is going to track you down. Not that I post detailed personal information anyway. I'm paranoid that way and will only give out information like that to people I really trust.

I can see how Facebook can cause envy in people, though. In many, many cases, Facebook is nothing but superficial. It's gross. I don't really care who has what or how rich someone is or if their house is nice and in a fancy neighborhood. I don't care in the slightest to sit and stress and moan about the things they have. I focus on what God has given me, and with that I am content. And if someone is content with what they have been blessed with, then I am happy for them. All this envy and greed is unneeded and could be avoided if people were just happy with the things they have.

Really, I just use Facebook to keep friends and family up to date and see how they're doing....And games. I do like the games.

Audrey said...

I actually don't do Facebook because I find it incredibly inauthentic. I don't blame you at all for "cleaning up your friends"! There was also an article in The Atlantic magazine about this very thing. And I love any time someone reminds me how good dark chocolate is for me!!!! ha ha.

AntiquityTravelers said...

I was on FB in the early days .... and now have way more 'friends' than I can remember ever 'friending' ... problem is that most are from work situations. So 'unfriending' is problematic. The way around it for me was to create groups. I now have a small group of 'close friends' that only they see my posts and I interact with. The rest I simply ignore. And that list I do update. there are only so many people that I want to share details of my life with!

Miss Val's Creations said...

Interesting read. I have to agree with the research. I joined FB after some friends talked me into it but I never took to it (although my account is still active). It seems like the same people are on there all the time posting boring things for attention. Over the years I have been baffled by strangers friend requesting me. Who are these people and do they think I would actually accept the request? So sad.

I still keep my page up to date for my business and do have fun interacting there but that is quite different from the friend thing.

Claudia Aguilar said...

I am on FB but hardly go on it...I don't like sharing my life details or finding out what people ate or that they are bored. And yes I have 'friends' there that after saying hi the first time I never interacted with them again :/

Julia Fain said...

hmmm...such good thoughts. My husband recently unfriended everyone he doesn't talk to regularly or isn't family. I like it for the reason you mentioned-staying in touch with my very spread out family (1 brother in Florida, 1 in Kenya) but I wish there was a way to filter!

CraveCute said...

Sorry I have been away so long! Now as to FB, I don't do it. Sometimes live just needs to be simplified! You've got the right idea!

Magic Love Crow said...

You know, I have never joined facebook and I don't think I ever will! I feel the people on there with their "friends", are like some blog people. I truly enjoy the people I follow in blogging land and I hope they enjoy my blog. I don't go around to all blogs and say, want to follow me, I have followed you? LOL! So many people do that!
I love all the helpful hints you gave ;o) I have to admit, I do several of them ;o)
Big Hugs and I hope you are feeling well and I also hope baby is doing well ;o)

Fundy Blue said...

Hi B&R! I've enjoyed catching up on your recent posts so much ~ and Rebecca has done an awesome job as a guest blogger for you. I haven't been on blogger as much this summer because it has been a crazy summer ~ nothing like adding a baby to the family, but wonderful non-the-less. Loved the Paolo Nutini/Sylvanians film. I have a thing about snakes, though, and I would have been nowhere near that anaconda. As for Facebook, I haven't been on it much ~ when I get time I'm exchanging email letters with friends or trying to get a post up and read others blogs. I hope all continues well with you and your precious kid lets. Wow, is Becky growing tall! Take care!

Almost Precious said...

Yes Facebook can be a downer. I started facebook because of my business (can't say as it helped any) I would recieve friend requests and naturaly accepted even though I didn't know who they were. At that time it was all about building up my etsy facebook site.
I suppose if I didn't have an online business I would not be on facebook at all.

littlecherryhill said...

I use FB both personally and for business. And I don't have many friends on it. I am guilty of having wasted time on it, but I don't post a heck of a lot. It is however how I keep in touch with family on the other side of the world and my wonderful metalsmithing friends in the USA. So I see the good and the bad. I can also see how some might feel dissatisfied with life when looking at other peoples pages, some only post all the great stuff - so their life looks flipping awesome (when you totally know it isn't!)

V said...

I totally agree with you. I unfriend people every now and then too. The posts that really bug me are the ones of food and those same people who continually take photos of themselves! Like, hello, Super Ego!

sophie...^5 said...

Shinrin Yuko

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/

We discovered this a couple years ago after retiring. We walk a lot in the woods and forest and beaches ~~~ always feeling so much better after the excursion.
Really enjoyed this article and now I'm going to defriend some so-called friends!
Cheers
Ron

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